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Skin Sewing

(Workshops Schedule) (Sewing Machine Video)

Student Jeremiah James of Yakutat at SHI's skin sewing workshop in 2012. Photo by Kathy DyeSHI sponsors programs to reintroduce the ancient art of skin-sewing through Southeast Alaska. The goals are to save a nearly lost art form, develop  a cottage industry in rural communities and more fully utilize a sustainable resource.

With more than 1 million hairs per square inch, sea otter fur is the finest in in the world, and SHI is working to open new markets for this luxurious product. This fledgling and sustainable industry has significant economic potential for Native craftspeople in Southeast Alaska, especially those living in economically depressed rural areas.

Sea otter populations in Southeast Alaska are very robust. During the last 15 years, although subsistence users have harvested them, the populations have continued to increase at significant rates. This is an example where traditional use of a resource is in harmony with the environment. To ensure that the populations continue to be robust, SHI is working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) on this program. SHI is a registered agent with the USFW, meaning the institute may buy skins from Native people for programs, and these transactions also help to sustain people living in economically depressed areas. This project is funded through a three-year grant from the State of Alaska for the institute’s Southeast Alaska Sustainable Arts Project.Workshops are open to everyone. (Press Release) (Application)


Students at SHI's 2012 moccasin workshop. Photo by Christy EriksenMoccasin Workshops (Application)
SHI offered its first workshop on how to make moccasins in 2010 at the urging of the late elder Anita Lafferty, who was worried the knowledge was disappearing. Since then, the institute has sponsored the classes each year and taught this ancient art form to many people. Join our e-news network and follow us on facebook for news on future classes. (Photos)